All across Europe, busy project managers are drafting, creating and amending their project plans and applications for this round of Erasmus Plus. But what makes a great European partnership project?
I think any successful European project whether it be an Erasmus Plus, Horizon 2020 or any other funding stream, needs to begin with the end in mind. Being clear about the long term plans post funding is critical. Too many organisations have received funding for projects that end almost as soon as the funding stops. Although there might be a good reason for this and therefore there may be some exceptions to this, for me this represents a poor project.
Take Perspectives 360 as a case in point. What has happened since the Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation project concluded in 2011? The answer is that Perspectives 360 – a 360 degree assessment and feedback tool for Managers has not only created a European network of Partners in Slovenia, Lithuania , Greece, Romania and Ireland but also Internationally with Partners also in Australia, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa and Trinidad & Tobago. As a result hundred of managers and organisations have now benefited post project funding.
What Makes a Great European Project?
Here are my top ten tips for what makes a great European project.
- Make sure your project concept is based upon solving a genuine problem and NOT just an idea that sound good.
- Ensure your project concept is innovative and provides a practical solution – if it is not a new concept, why should the European Commission fund it? Too many projects duplicate other past and current projects.
- Select your partners carefully as a weak partner can jeopardise the project’s viability and chances of success.
- Make sure you have a clear marketing strategy – and I do not mean marketing and NOT dissemination. Dissemination and marketing are two distinct actions: DO NOT confuse the two!
- Plan, plan and then plan some more before you commit to making an application. Without detailed planning at the application stage, you are likely to end up with confused partners who are not sure what the project is about and what they need to do.
- Take action on day one of the funding if not before. Time is always precious and therefore do not waste time waiting for the BIG Kick-off Meeting. Too much time is waste in the first year of many projects so that you are playing ‘catch-up’.
- Assess and review risk. Every stage of a project has associated risks, therefore conduct a risk review before starting (i.e. whilst developing your application, whilst delivering it and whilst wrapping it up). Work on the old maxim – “If it can go wrong, it will” then have your contingency plan ready.
- Communicate, communicate and communicate. Monitoring progress and managing performance is critical in any project and even more so in larger, multi-partner projects. Set up a variety of communication systems including using collaborative working platforms (e.g. Wiggio); online meetings/conferences (e.g. GoToMeeting), organising tools such as Doodle and so on.
- Develop your procedures based on audit trails from day one. My advice is a little administration most days, saves an administrative nightmare later on. This also means making sure partners do the same!
- Manage the project as a project. In my experience, project management methodologies tend to work well when running projects. Why then, do so many European project managers fail to fully embrace project management? Make sure you know your ‘critical path’; have a risk assessment plan; communicate your key milestones and monitor outcomes and progress.
Exponential Training & Erasmus Plus 2015
One key piece of advice for any ‘would-be’ European project manager is ‘BE SELECTIVE’. Every year, I am inundated with invitations and requests to join or to include organisations in project applications.
Exponential Training is fortunate to work with an established network of quality partners which reduces the risk of an ineffective partnership. This means I am able to build project continuum's around a core of strong partners.
Currently, I am working on two project applications for the Erasmus Plus 2015 applications – Project IPEC and Fit4Business. Project IPEC will enable small and medium sized business owners and managers to learn how to use project management to improve their bottom-line performance. What is innovative about this? It is the way they will learn about project management – via the use of gamification.
The second project, Fit4Business, will enable small and medium sized (SME) businesses to understand the benefits and impact on performance of the use of ‘wellness’ techniques. Both projects address business performance problems using innovative approaches.